Thursday, March 16, 2006

If you were a kid and it was 1988, you were one of the blessed few who got to experience the true joy of what can only be described ‘a stroke of pure marketing genius’. Who thought it up?

‘Hey Chad, you’ve got a retarded name but I’ve got a good idea for a new line!’

‘What’s that Ron the unimaginably smart guy?’

‘Kids love Dinosaurs right Chad?’

‘Yeah Ron, kids love dinosaurs like my ex-wife loves the punitive alimony payments I am court ordered to pay her.’

‘And Chad, kids also love G.I. Joes right, you know, the whole action war fighting thing?’

‘Yeah Ron, hey I think I see where you’re headed, we make a range of G.I. Joes that are actually dinosaur soldiers, you know, the body of a human with the head of a dinosaur!’

‘Chad, You’re a retard, I’m taking your job, your home, your dog and your ex-wife. Why? Because last night I talked with the devil and he gave me this idea for a toy range that will give the under twelve’s wet dreams sooner than their biologically ready for.’

This was heroin for kiddies that they produced, a compulsively addictive range of perfect toys. In 1988-89 there seemed to be nothing more on the face of the earth that nine and ten year old boys wanted more than Dino Riders. Fuck the turtles, burn the Joes, these even shelved the Transformers for a while. Josh and me lived ate breathed and shat Dino Riders.

Now I was one of those dorky little kids that new his Jurassic from his Triassic and his Cretaceous. I had fact sheets, catalogue books, wall charts and I would’ve had tattoos of a Tyrannosaurus gutting the carcass of a triceratops on my skinny white chest, except for the fact I was mortified of needles and I was nine. While the other boys were playing bull rush on the fields I could often be found digging through the cat turds in the sand pit desperately trying to find a fossil, then I would get distracted and build a huge sand pile and make tunnels through it, only to find...more cat turds.

One day I was watching T.V. and an add came on. A huge logo blazed across the screen, I swear like message from on high:

‘Harness the power of Dinosaurs: DINO RIDERS!’

And behold, some blonde haired American children were playing with simply the coolest toys ever bought into creation in the late 80’s. Dinosaurs, controlled by humanoid (ish) characters, that were engaged in an epic battle for control of prehistoric earth after their spaceships had crash landed there. These weren’t just cheap lizard looking dinosaurs, oh no, these were scientifically accurate dinosaurs, modeled from fossil records. The boasted a degree of scientific accuracy that would encourage parents to purchase them on mass for their children as they could of course ‘play and learn’ about paleontology. This struck my young brain as being the kind of gifted inspiration that could only have passed down from some high peak of oriental wisdom to us in the west.

Had Josh seen this? Did he have one already? Was I already in an arms race that would leave the cold war for dead in its wake of dismembered, smoking dinosaur corpses and partially digested action figures? Parents had to be cajoled into providing funding immediately! Like a veritable President I stood before the congress of my two parents and begged for the funding necessary to assemble my army of perfectly detailed dinosaurs. Dinosaurs...


Hells yes was I ever persuasive. Now of all the myriad range of dinosaurs that were available in the first series release there was one, one huge, brilliant, gargantuan item that no true collector, no true aesthete of Dino Riders would or could ever do without.
The Tyrannosaurus Rex. Seeing the box on display in the toy store was a feeling akin to what I’m sure it would feel like to look on the face of God for the first time. The art work on these boxes was amazingly detailed. It had a rich palette that evoked perfectly the dark and sinister primeval world that the warring Rulon and Valorian factions had crash-landed on.
Somebody had taken the largest flesh eating creature ever to walk the earth, the biggest, coolest thing that had ever existed, bar none, and they had built a laser cannon battle station on its back, which was Christmas, Easter, your birthday and the last day of school all rolled up into one cluster fuck of endorphin producing, eye ball popping, expensive beyond the realm of pocket money Lost Arc-of-the-fucking-Covenant.
My battle of one-upmanship with Josh continued, progressively over the year our armies leapfrogged one over the other in progressive escalation in accordance with birthdays and Christmases. He got the Deinonychus, I got the Styracosaurus, he got the Pteranodon, I got the Quetzalcoatlus. One day I was mortified, shocked beyond belief when he pulled out the Triceratops! The Triceratops! It was only one of the three battery powered dinosaurs that walked on its own. He could put it in a direction and it could attack autonomously,just by running over my armies while I was forced to attack and defend against Josh himself. It was a large scale force multiplier. It had a moveable radar dish! All was lost.
My parents went to London on a holiday business junket. I sacrificed playmobil and star wars characters on an arcane altar to the heathen god’s of the Rulon’s, for there was only one thing that would truly be able to sucker punch Josh’s Triceratopian reinforced army of doom.
When the now beloved congressional panel of Dino Rider war funding parents produced the physically overwhelming box that held within it’s confines the solution to my long and weary campaign of attrition I thanked them profusely, then took with my own two hands one of the greatest toys of the 80’s into my possession. It gleamed, it glimmered, it’s mouth opened and it roared when it walked, and most of all, all it bits and pieces were surprisingly really well designed, sturdy and stayed on the dinosaur when it moved. Hopefully, somewhere high above in the attics of my family, my T-Rex still remains.
Josh got one at the same time. Somehow to this day I think there was a meeting of congressional funding panels that orchestrated this. This effectively ended the Dino Riders arms race, and they did look cool when they ran into each other. You see, the T-Rex had the power to destroy anything on the battlefield. Josh Eventually got the Torosaurus and I got the Diplodocus, so between us we had the entire first series release in what at the time was mint condition.

Dino Riders were one of the coolest things ever about being young. So damn cool. I want my T-Rex.


addendum: The images I pinched for this piece I got from at

They pinched the logo for their banner, but the two photo’s of the box and the armored T-Rex are personal photo’s someone has donated to the site. Didn’t think they’d mind me using them as long as I didn’t claim they were main. Got to the Toy Archive now and browse through all those old toy’s you had. The entire post is in aid of today’s Japanese phrase…natsukashi. Essentially referring to sentimentality, especially regarding ones childhood.


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